The floor has a ripple 
in it, which is funny 
because the carpet is blue 
like the sea and the baby 
is pulling and chewing 
on your nipple so hard 
that it bleeds 
and her little legs kick- 
kick you, her hands find 
your hair and pull hard 
and there’s a roaring 
in your ears that might 
be the sea and they ask 
you if you’re blue and 
you say you just need 
some sleep then everything 
will be all right but now 
the floor has a ripple in it. 


Marie Curie (1867 –1934)

A soft blue glow. 
The glass vial of radium salts 
transmits joy, like a distant sun or 
a luminous dial. 
She likes to keep it by her bed, always. 
In the evening a moth at the window 
taps out a syncopated message, 
perhaps a warning, gamma, 
gamma, gamma. 

At night she is the moth 
bumping against the soft blue glow, 
pulled to the point from which 
all things radiate, to the spontaneity 
of atomic nuclei collapsing. 
She lets the splendid beams 
spread over her. 

In the day she goes downstairs 
to the backyard, the laboratory shed, 
puts on her smock with the holes 
where the salts burn through. 
She is radiant. She fills 
another notebook, her fingers barely register 
the pen, their tips scarred hard. 



Helen Heath lives in the seaside village of Paekākāriki, on the Kapiti Coast. She completed an MA in Creative Writing at the IIML in 2009. Her poetry has been published in many journals in New Zealand and Australia. Most recently she’s had a chap-book of poems published by Seraph Press called Watching for Smoke (2009). Helen also blogs at helenheath.com. ‘Radiant’ is about Marie Skłodowska Curie(1867–1934), who was a pioneer in the field of radioactivity, the first person honoured with two Nobel Prizes and the first female professor at the University of Paris. Curie and her husband, Pierre, discovered radium. She spent the remainder of her life performing radiation research and studying radiation therapy. Her constant exposure to radiation led to her contracting leukaemia.